Workshop “Population and Political Economy from Montesquieu to Malthus and Beyond”, 23 January 2020, St Andrews
Workshop “The Intellectual History Archives”, 24 January 2020, St Andrews
Séminaire franco-britannique d’histoire
24 June 2019, Paris
Lina presented a paper with the title ‘Political Economy after Enlightenment. The case of Dugald Stewart’.
Abstract: Scholars often assigned Dugald Stewart (1753-1828) a crucial role in popularising and disseminating the Scottish Enlightenment. A highly esteemed professor for moral philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, Stewart was the first to dedicate a separate academic course on political economy in Britain. Since he never published these lectures and his manuscripts were burnt posthumously, scholars have relied on the edition made by William Hamilton in the 1850s. Drawing on hitherto-neglected notes of students, this paper will shed new light on Stewart’s political economy and on his position between the Enlightenment and Victorian liberalism.
Progress and Decline in the History of Political Thought
20-21 June 2019, London
Richard Whatmore delivered the keynote lecture to this two-day graduate conference. He explored the way in which the decline and even perishing of republics challenged political thinkers in the eighteenth century. Instead of a narrative of progress, which is often associated with the Enlightenment, Richard developed an argument about the sense of crisis and anticipated change prevalent in contemporary discussions about the future of states.
Lina Weber presented a paper entitled ‘From Overspending to Overpopulation. Predicting collapse in late eighteenth-century Britain’. She explored Malthus’ principle of population in the context of earlier fears of a national bankruptcy.
Science and spiritualism, 1750–1930
30–31 May 2019, Leeds Trinity University
Bill gave a paper entitled ‘The Physiology of the haunted mind: Naturalistic theories of apparitions in early nineteenth-century Scotland’.
Abstract: The late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries saw a resurgence of interest in the supernatural in Scotland, as elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Interest in the phenomenon of apparitions was stimulated by the popular success of Scottish Gothic literature associated with James Hogg and Walter Scott, with its fascination with the weird and the inexplicable, while the growing influence of the voluntarist theology of the evangelicals gave the idea of supernatural intervention in the world renewed currency. In response to these developments a number of members of Edinburgh’s literati proposed naturalistic explanations for supernatural phenomena in the course of the 1820s, drawing on the legacy of Scottish Enlightenment philosophy. These included the geologist and antiquarian Samuel Hibbert and the phrenologist George Combe. In these works they reframed the question of apparitions as essentially a medical problem, unchallenging to the contemporary dualist conception of the relationship between mind and body. Their theories can be interpreted as attempts to defend the secular, rationalistic legacy of the late eighteenth-century Edinburgh intellectual elite as the world of the late Scottish Enlightenment gave way to the Victorian age. This paper explores the interrelations between these theories, their roots in the troubled cultural politics of Scotland in the early nineteenth century and the reaction of different protagonists in the cultural conflicts of the period to their ideas.
Institute of Scottish Historical Research Reading Weekend
12-14 April 2019, The Burn, Glenesk, Scotland
The Institute of Scottish Historical Research at the University of St Andrews organised a reading weekend for its members. Participants presented their current research and discussed their findings with experts in the field. All research fellows of ‘After Enlightenment’ took part in this activity and greatly enjoyed the enriching experience. In a panel dedicated to the project, Bill Jenkins and Felicity Loughlin presented their strands.
Felicity’s paper discussed her research on popular unbelief and Scotland’s freethinking societies, c.1820-c.1850. She drew attention to the ‘infidel’ groups of Edinburgh and Glasgow (the largest of Scotland’s freethinking societies), discussed their membership, and explored the theological, political, and philosophical ideas that animated them. She argued that these debates intersected in significant ways with wider debates within the Christian mainstream – including disputes over the scope and limits of natural religion, the significance of biblical criticism, and the relationship between theology and scientific knowledge. Her paper concluded that paying attention to popular unbelief in Scotland provides us with a more nuanced understanding of the religious and philosophical controversies of the early nineteenth century.
Bill delivered a paper on ‘The identities of David Brewster: The self-fashioning of a Scottish man of science, 1802–1838’. Jan Golinski’s work on the career of Humphry Davy (The Experimental Self, 2016) has shown how a ‘scientist’ in the early nineteenth century could inhabit many interlocking and interpenetrating personae. Drawing on Golinski’s work, Bill showed in his paper how, like Davy, David Brewster played many roles in the course of his long career, which saw him transform himself from a young natural philosopher in the early 1800s into a grand old man of Victorian science. Brewster was, among other things, an inventor of philosophical instruments, a man of letters, an editor of books and journals, a scientific administrator and a champion of the role of imagination in science. Each of these roles helped Brewster in different ways to establish and maintain his position as a man of science, while supporting himself and his family financially. Some mutually supported each other, while there could be tension and conflict between others. The multi-faceted nature of his career make him the perfect lens through which to examine the profound cultural and intellectual shifts in late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Scotland between the late Enlightenment and the Victorian age.